Photo Credit: Jewish Press

How creative are you? How creative are the people you work with? How about your friends? Next time you are at a social event, ask them. You may be surprised by what they say. I have worked with people and organizations all over the world. Everywhere I go, I find the same paradox. Most children think they are highly creative; most adults think they’re not. This is a bigger issue than it may seem.

 

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That’s the first paragraph of Ken Robinson’s book Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, recently updated and rereleased. In his book, Robinson focuses on three fundamental themes:

We are living in time of revolution.

If we are to survive and flourish, we have to think differently about our own abilities and make the best use of them.

In order to make the best use of our abilities, we have to run our organizations and especially our education systems in radically different ways.

He argues that today’s model of education is based on a 19th century understanding of the mind. It was built on the theory of the Enlightenment and on the principles of the Industrial Revolution. Thus, education today has ringing bells, standardization, grouping based on age, and separate facilities. This, he argues, is from the production line mentality. Rather than treating students as individuals, we treat them as a product being manufactured. And for many years, this model of education worked. If you worked hard, did well in school and went to college, you got a good job.

What Robinson explains is that this is no longer true. We are living through a revolution. We are failing millions of kids. They do not believe they will succeed with a college degree because it is not the passport to success it once was. We are used to looking at students in two ways: “smart” or “not smart.” Robinson thinks we need to cultivate “divergent thinkers” – thinkers who see multiple possibilities, thinkers who see multiple answers, not one.

And, that’s where creativity comes in. In order to foster divergent thinkers and people who can change with the changing world around us, we need to value and teach creativity. Actually, Robinson mentions a paper clip study in which people were asked how many different uses there are for a paper clip. Kindergarteners were able to come up with hundreds of uses, but as they got older, the same children thought of fewer and fewer ones. What was the difference? The children had gone to school and been taught that there are “right” and “wrong” answers. They were no longer prepared to be wrong. They had been implicitly taught that creativity and divergent thinking are not valued.

While Robinson is firmly against the educational systems we have in place, I believe there is definitely value in our schools. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. And, that’s where creativity comes in.

As they get older, people don’t believe they are creative. That’s because they don’t necessarily understand creativity. Being creative isn’t just about the product that you create. It’s about the way that you think – we can encourage creative thinking through the use of analogies, metaphors and visual thinking. Teachers can get children on their feet in the classroom. They can have them walk the number line and build an ecosystem. Students can work in groups, pairs, or individually. When we allow space for different types of intelligence, we free up room for creativity and innovation.

Another great way to foster creativity is in Danny Gregory’s beautiful and informative book Art Before Breakfast. Gregory writes that making art will make you saner and happier; you don’t need to think you have “talent” to make beautiful art and that art making can fit into the craziest, busiest, most hectic and out of control lives – even yours.

And it’ll take just a few fun minutes a day.

Gregory argues that in an ever-changing world, art is a way to mold the world to our specifications – to make sense of it. “Creativity isn’t a luxury. It’s the essence of life. It’s what distinguishes us from the mush. And it’s why our ancestors survived while other less adaptive critters perished. They responded to change by being creative in some way, by inventing a new answer to the chaos.”

Another benefit to creativity other than finding a job that you love and being successful? In 2010, the American Journal of Public Health published a review titled “The Connection Between Art, Healing, and the Public.” In that article, Drs. Heather Stuckey and Jeremy Nobel reviewed one hundred studies that have been conducted to analyze the relationship between creativity and both mental and physical health. The overwhelming conclusion: art-based interventions are effective in reducing physiological and psychological outcomes of health issues. That means that according to medical science, art can have a positive effect on your health.

 

 

Register now for an anger management workshop by Dr. Ross Greene on November 14, 2017. Please call Mrs. Schonfeld at 718-382-5437 for more information.

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An acclaimed educator and social skills ​specialist​, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at rifkaschonfeld@gmail.com.